This one is fairly self-explanatory. Even though I probably know nothing about you, I am willing to bet that at some point in your life you’ve experienced one of the following:
- you’ve accidentally deleted a photo off your computer or mobile device;
- you’ve had a phone or camera—chock-full of stored images—stolen or go missing
- had a memory card or hard drive go inexplicably wonky and either wipe out all your images or render them irretrievable.
One or more of these three unfortunate events has undoubtedly happened to every single camera owner on Earth since digital became the default mode of photography. Both (a) and (c) have happened to me personally. In the case of (c), it was during one of those once-in-a-lifetime events: my honeymoon, in Turkey. My camera couldn’t handle the near 40ºC Cappadocian heat and scrambled my SD card in protest. Once I got home I had to purchase an external SD reader and download special card-recovery software, and even with all that I was only able to recapture about 80% of them. In fact, it seems everyone has photo-loss story that’s as personal and unique as the pictures they’ve lost.
Despite the ubiquities of accidents, theft and storage failure, most people are still content to keep the vast majority of their images stored on cards and drives. After all, doing so is just so darn convenient that it lulls you into complacency. I actually know of people who’ve had multiple incidents of loss and failure, yet they continue to keep their images stored on their phone and/or storage media. Of course, the ‘cloud’ is becoming ever-more popular as a means of image storage. But how much does the average person really know about the cloud, and how loss-proof such solutions really are? Yes, when you upload your images to a massive provider like Google, Facebook or Yahoo!(Flickr), you can be reasonably certain that they know what they’re doing. But even amongst these behemoths, data wipeouts are not impossible. There is, however, a much more prevalent issue with cloud storage: the problem of ‘cloud sprawl’ (Copyright: me). I currently have images and various other files spread around at least six different cloud-based services: Google Drive, Flickr, Dropbox, iCloud, Facebook as well as others I barely remember. And even though I’m pretty organized when it comes to storage, I confess I no longer know for sure which of my important images are stored where. Most cloud users I know have this problem; you begin building a library on one cloud when suddenly a new cloud server pops up promising more convenience and access. You forsake your current cloud and start adding to the new one; and so on and so on, until your cloud storage system look more like a hoarder’s living room. While not as dramatic as outright data loss, cloud sprawl still becomes a pain when you’re trying to find your most important images. While it may seem counterintuitive, the most effective way to prevent image loss is to promptly turn your images into prints and keep them organized in photo books. This also offers the additional benefit of keeping your favourite photos handy, and in a format that lends itself very well to leisurely reflection.
Yes, I realize that prints are susceptible to things like fire and flood, overstimulated babies and dogs, and other forms of physical damage. I’m not saying you should delete your hard drive or cloud entirely. I’m just saying that these methods are not the 100% foolproof adamantium data vaults that we allow ourselves to believe they are; and that printing your photos as keepsakes is the best way to ensure all your bases are covered when it comes to preserving your images. As to what kind of photo book your prints should take, I happen to know where you can find a vast array of cool options…say, have I mentioned Book-It?